We used to have the same staff holiday policy as the majority of decent employers – we took the minimum number of holidays that we had to give, and then added a few extra on to be nice.
And then, several months ago now, we decided to adopt an unlimited holiday policy.
We gave our team complete ownership of the system. As long as the team collectively feel that they can cover for the workload of their colleague while off, and that staffing levels can be covered too, all holiday requests are approved.
Whether a team member fancies a month long cruise to celebrate an anniversary, or has to take time off because their child is ill (we all know that child who catches every single cough and cold!), they no longer have to worry about whether they’ve got enough holidays left to do so.
This policy applies to all members of staff, from our junior Apprentices to our most senior staff.
We’re delighted to say that this policy has been a complete success. Here are some things it has taught (or reminded) us:
01: If you want your team to work hard, you have to let them play hard.
We demand excellence from all of our team. We work hard, give 100% and care deeply. That creates an amazing work environment, but it could also lead to burn out and resentment if we didn’t allow our team to kick back and relax as well. Unlimited holidays allow us to show our team that while we appreciate and expect hard work, we also value holidays, relaxation and switching off from work.
02: Good people don’t need rules.
We can’t stress this enough. If your company has a team of good, trustworthy people, they will police themselves. So far, our team have used the unlimited holiday policy to enjoy holidays abroad and in this country, time off with children in the school holidays, and revision time for exam periods. Whenever a holiday request is made, the rest of the team do everything in their power to be able to approve that holiday request for their colleague. Some people may take 50 days off, others may take 20, but everyone knows that they have the freedom to take as much (or as little) time off as is appropriate for their circumstances.
03: Motivation doesn’t only come from pay rises.
Implementing the unlimited holiday policy cost us nothing as a firm, but tells our team very clearly that we value them highly and also value their personal lives and the obligations they have away from work. Morale within our firm is incredibly high. Never again do we want a working mother to have to take a day’s unpaid holiday because her child is ill. Never again do we want a team member to become so stressed after a particularly busy work period that they end up signed off work, when all they really need is a few days at home to relax.
04: Flexible working is the future.
We’d love to offer completely flexible working times and arrangements to our team, but we’re limited. We have to physically be in the office within certain hours as we deal with government organisations that certainly don’t work after 5pm! Unlimited holidays are a great way for us to recognise that people don’t need to be at their desks to be working. Our team operate a 24/7 voluntary rota for providing out of hours support. Each fee earner has a work mobile that rarely leaves their side. As I type this, it’s after 6pm and the whole team are still here, even our Apprentice! And if they want to work that hard, and then spend a summer volunteering in Africa, we’re all in favour of it.
05: Life experiences improve your team.
We are big fans of life experiences. We try to include our team in as much as we can – all of them take a key role in business development, marketing and presenting our firm to the world. We attend training and courses, and we like to wear our evening gowns and black ties and party at the various awards ceremonies we attend! But everything that happens outside of work is fed back into our company. We want a team who have rich experiences and who experience life fully. Unlimited holidays allows everyone to experience more, enhancing our team and bringing us new insights, understandings and lessons.
06: Unlimited holidays can be used for good.
When people stop seeing their holiday allowance as a precious, limited resource, and instead as an unlimited gift, they say yes to much more. Working parents attend more school plays and volunteer on class trips. Ambitious team members say yes to distance learning because they know their team will give them vital revision time. And everyone can say yes to community involvement. Recently, some of our team took time off work to join the local search for missing teenager Amber Peat in our town.
Considering implementing an unlimited holiday policy in your firm?
We say – go for it!